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Archive for January, 2020

I think I’m almost ready to start–at least with the dragons’ part of the story. But inspiration has at least been flowing on how that will work–I hope.

Meanwhile, continuing some research on the oldest part of the Arthur legend–which, hopefully, is also the closest to whatever historical persons or events may underlie it.

If there was an Arthur–or someone who did the major thing that Arthur was supposed to have done–it was probably around the year 500.

From the middle of the 1st Century until early in the 5th Century, Britain (south of Scotland) was part of the Roman Empire. In 410, the Roman legions were withdrawn to protect the parts of the Empire closer to Rome from Barbarian incursions. Britain had been suffering from these incursions, too–up until this point, mostly smash-and-grab raids by the Irish, Picts, and Saxons–and now they had no protection. Sometime after the withdrawal of the legions, the nature of these incursions changed from raids to occupation–Irish and especially Saxon settlements being founded in Britain. The Saxon settlements particularly expanded westward, pushing at least some of the Romanized Britons further and further west. Until, right around 500, the advance stopped and held for about 50 years.

That’s history. Legend, of course, has it that Arthur and his knights fought twelve battles against the Saxons and finally defeated them at Mount Badon. (Only, nobody now knows where Mount Badon was.)

The earliest written (allowing, of course, for older oral traditions) mention of this battle in by Gildas. He wasn’t writing a history, though. Or a legend. More a rant about how the weaker leaders of his time had let the Saxons begin to advance across Britain once again.

But:

  • Gildas names the war leader who won the battle of Mount Badon as Ambrosius Aurelianus–not Arthur.
  • He further claims that Ambrosius was descended of “royal” Roman blood.
  • However, he expressly does not call Ambrosius a king, let alone high king–and he does name other kings.

Interestingly, Gildas was writing possibly fifty or so years after the battle, so maybe he knew or had heard first-hand stories about what happened.

And, while Gildas didn’t use the name Arthur, another 6th Century source–a poem from Scotland–does, in praising the accomplishments of a warrior “though he was no Arthur”. That’s all it says about Arthur. Which implies that Arthur’s story–as it existed at that time–was well enough known that it didn’t need explanation.

Other parts of the Arthur legend got added later, though a few are possibly old.

  • Merlin isn’t added to the story until the 12th Century. (Too bad, I’m still using Merlin.)
  • Lancelot is also a 12th Century addition.
  • Guenivere, however, is mentioned in what may be later (11th Century) transcriptions of older oral traditions. In fact, the Welsh Triads mention three separate women–all named Guenevere and all married to Arthur.
  • Mordred is also mentioned–although generally only as Arthur’s nephew. And he’s often portrayed in as one of the good guys.

All of this is giving me some ideas.

 

 

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Well, last week went and got crazy on me, so I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped.

Fire Dragon 2

Still, I did make some progress.

  • I reviewed the part of the Mabinogion pertaining to Bran the Blessed. I’m going to have to put some thought into how this meshes with the rest of the story I want to tell. (Bran’s story is already loosely connected to Arthur’s in the Mabinogion.) Of course, there’s no more reason I have to stick strictly to the original of Bran’s story than that I need to hold to the usual version of Arthur’s.
  • I watched again the historical lecture on . . . well, not Arthur, but what was happening in Britain at the time when Arthur would have to have been active. (Around the end of the 5th Century.) And what little contemporary or near-contemporary evidence we have of an actual Arthur-like figure, which is scant but not non-existent.
  • And I read a little more in that book about breaking out of writer’s block. (Not as helpful as I’d hoped, but not without some useful points.)

Next, I believe I will study up on the way the Arthur legend grew over the centuries–which parts are oldest and which were added later. (Hint: Lancelot is never mentioned until Chretien de Troyes in the 12th Century.) I’ll use the course guidebook, though, rather than re-watch all the lectures. It’ll be quicker.

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Tiny ones. Still concrete goals are the first step to actually getting where you want to go.

The “secret history” idea I’ve been playing with is taking clearer and clearer shape. It’s almost certainly going to start not so much with history as with legend–which might, or might not, be based in actual history. In this case, likely some of the older parts of the stories about King Arthur.

But, actually, it probably starts a bit earlier than that, with a very small part of the Welsh stories about Bran the Blessed, because that story is sometimes connected to Arthur’s–or to something inadvisable that a young Arthur does.

Of course, there’ll be a pretty big twist on these stories. (Hint: dragons will be important.)

celtic dragon_46947764

So, back to concrete steps. I need to review some of the recent things I’ve read–and watched through The Great Courses Plus–about Arthur. I’ll also review at least part of the Mabinogion to refresh my memory about Bran’s story.

And also continue the Great Courses Plus course I’m currently watching. A

And then, just maybe, I’ll be ready to start writing.

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No, I haven’t actually started writing, yet. But I have made some progress. The Great Courses Plus lectures have sparked some new ideas. I’ve done a bit of research. I’ve even started gathering potential cover art.

Gold Flame Dragon

This isn’t one of them. 😀 (That’s from the cover of BY SWORD, TALE, OR MAGIC.)

And I’ve begun to imagine what an opening scene might be like.

That’s progress.

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